As dog lovers, we all want the best for our dogs and we do our best by giving them lots of love, providing them with food and a comfy bed. Does that mean they are now happy? Not necessarily, your dog obviously appreciates this and gives you a lot of love back. So what is missing?
Let me first try to tap into our needs as humans and then relate it to dogs. Human needs are:
- Physiological such as food, shelter and rest
- Psychological such as love and belonging
- Intellectual such as the need to have mental stimulation
Human self-actualisation is only materialised when all these needs are fulfilled. One of the biggest mistakes we can make is to assume that dogs feel and think like humans. By doing this, we treat them like human and we attribute our own needs to their behaviour.
Dogs are not intellectual but instinctual and therefore a dog’s true happiness is achieved when their instinctual needs are fulfilled. So what is your dog’s instinctual needs and how can you fulfil them?
The most important instinctual need of a dog is to walk. The walk has a lot of meaning to dogs and not only is this the best way to establish an everlasting relationship with them, it also fulfils many of the other needs of your dog. Dogs walk for miles every day in search of food. This is how they have been wired and they enjoy it. Yes they live with us and don’t need to hunt anymore but they are still a dog with the same DNA and instinctual needs. If you walk your dog everyday and then give her food, you are fulfilling the same need.
Read my “how important is the walk to a dog” blog to see how a simple walking ritual changes your relationship with your dog.
One other way to honour your dog’s instinct, especially if they are high-energy, is to engage the dog in activities that fulfil the needs of the breed.
For example, Labradors enjoy swimming, Terriers are very good at agility courses, working breeds love to have a job and wearing a backpack to carry your bottle of water gives them a great sense of purpose. By doing this, they feel that they have earned their food and your love and that is precisely how you make sure your dog is happy.
Let your dog be a dog and don’t humanise them.
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